Why Do Dogs Nuzzle?

Kate Barrington
by Kate Barrington
A sure sign of affection, we love when our dogs nuzzle us. But there’s more to a dog’s nuzzle that meets the eye – here are all the things it could mean.

Nothing is more satisfying than cuddling up on the couch with your dog after a long, hard day. Even if it’s the middle of summer and you’re sweating through your clothes, the comfort of having your dog snuggle up to you is well worth it. When your dog nuzzles you, you probably consider it a sign of affection, but could it be something more?

Related: How Do Dogs Show Affection?

What Does It Mean When Dogs Nuzzle?

Some dogs act like they just can’t get close enough to their owners. Whether you’re on the couch or lying in bed, your dog will position himself to obtain as much contact as physically possible. He’ll nudge his wet nose into your hand, nuzzle his face up next to yours, or snuggle up against you. These are common dog behaviors, but many dog owners don’t stop to think about the reasoning behind them.

Here are some of the top reasons dogs nuzzle their owners:

  • When your dog nuzzles you after you walk through the door, it is his way of greeting you and telling you he’s happy to see you.
  • If your dog’s nudging and nuzzling starts to seem excessive, it could be an expression of dominance – this is more commonly done to other dogs than to humans.
  • When your dog nuzzles up to your face and gives it a quick lick, it may be a sign of respect – a way of acknowledging the hierarchy of your relationship.
  • Most dogs are not known for their subtlety, so sometimes your dog nuzzles you in an attempt to extract attention or a tasty treat.
  • In some cases, nuzzling (especially to your face or another’s dog face) is a way of finding out whether there is food to be had – your dog can smell it on your breath.

As you can see, there are a variety of reasons your dog could be nuzzling you and the underlying motivation may change from one instance to another. Read on to see whether it is okay to let your dog keep nuzzling or if you should try to discourage it.

Should You Control Your Dog’s Behavior?

Though repetitive nudging and nuzzling might get annoying at times, there is generally no reason to discourage this behavior. In fact, you may want to do the opposite. In the same way that your feelings might be hurt if someone rejects your show of affection, your dog doesn’t like to be denied either. Giving him a pat on the head or a quick belly rub when he nuzzles up to you will strengthen your bond and encourage your do to trust you.

If your dog nuzzles you at inappropriate times or if it takes on an air of begging, you may want to curb the behavior a little. When your dog nuzzles you at the table, ask him to lie down or send him to another room until the meal is over. If your dog nuzzles visitors and they dislike the behavior, train your dog to sit when people come to the door and let the visitor offer attention if desired.

Your dog loves you more than you will ever know, even if you don’t feel like you always deserve it. Nuzzling is just one way your dog shows you affection, so take it gladly as often as he offers it.

Kate Barrington
Kate Barrington

Kate Barrington is the loving owner of two cats (Bagel and Munchkin) and a noisy herd of guinea pigs. Having grown up with golden retrievers, Kate has a great deal of experience with dogs but labels herself a lover of all pets. Having received a Bachelor's degree in English, Kate has combined her love for pets and her passion for writing to create her own freelance writing business, specializing in the pet niche.

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